Every year, dozens of Americans die and thousands more are injured due to winter weather related hazards. Others inadvertently suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning or start a home fire by misusing alternative heat sources when riding out a bad winter storm. It doesn’t have to be that way. With a little preparation and a good plan, you can help stay safe at home, at work or even on the road in dangerous winter weather. Wherever you go, UL can help you stay one step ahead of safety concerns.
It’s important to be aware of potentially threatening weather in your area. The National Weather Service uses the following terms for all winter weather hazards. Here’s what they mean and what you should do. Be sure to listen to your local officials reports of conditions in your area.
OUTLOOK: Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2-5 days. Stay tuned to local media for updates.
WATCH: Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36-48 hours. Prepare now!
WARNING: Life-threatening severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. Act now!
ADVISORY: Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If you are cautious, these situations should not be life threatening.
BEFORE THE STORM
When a storm strikes in the winter, an entire community can be paralyzed and you can become stranded at home. The greatest threats to your family are loss of heat, power and a shortage of supplies. Before the winter season, update your Family Emergency Kit to include winter-related needs. A Winter Weather Survival Kit should include:
• Five days’ worth of non-perishable food and water
• Can opener
• Portable emergency radio (hand-crank, solar-powered or battery-operated)
• Any prescription medication needed by family members
• First aid kit
• List of phone numbers for relatives
• Neighbors and utility company phone numbers and information
• Pictures and descriptions of your family
• If you have pets, include five days’ worth of canned pet food and water, sturdy leashes, harnesses or carriers, current photos/ descriptions and a litter box.
• Emergency heat source (space heater, fireplace supplies)
• UL Listed Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm
• Matches in a waterproof container
Every family should also review their Home Safety Plan to be sure that they are ready in case of an emergency. Oftentimes, snow/ice will change your potential escape routes, so be sure to review the changes and challenges that winter weather might create. Each year, families should also double-check their snow removal equipment to be sure that it is in good working condition and ready to go.
DURING THE STORM
During a storm, loss of power and the ensuing cold along with being cut-off from supplies and emergency services can cause potentially life-threatening conditions to your family. The following can help you stay warm and safe:
• Stay Inside
While the storm is still raging, it’s a good idea to stay warm and protected inside. You can dig out when the weather lifts. If you must go outside, wear layers of warm, light clothing including a hat and gloves or mittens. Be sure to tell someone where you are going and walk carefully on icy paths.
• Be Safe with Alternative Heat
Alternative heat sources can provide much needed warmth when the power goes out, but be sure to use extreme caution. Children should be kept three feet from any source of heat and you should practice fire safeguards and ventilate properly. See this article on Staying Warm and Safe with Air Heaters (http://www.safetyathome.com/home-safety/home-safety-articles/stay-warm-and-safe-with-air-heaters)
• Place Your Generator Carefully
If you have a generator, be sure to place it in a well-ventilated, covered area. A shed or other outbuilding is the ideal location. Be sure not to place it in an adjacent garage or in the basement as dangerous carbon monoxide fumes could enter your home. See this article to learn the warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning (http://www.safetyathome.com/home-safety/home-safety-articles/test-your-carbon-monoxide-iq-and-protect-your-loved-ones/)
• Stay Warm When the Power Goes Out
In the event of getting stuck with no heat source, close off unneeded rooms in your home. Cover windows at night and stuff towels or rags under cracks in doors. Stay warmly dressed with loose layers of lightweight, warm clothing. Pay particular attention to young children as their body temperature can drop quickly. If kids are very active, remove layers to avoid over-heating and subsequent chill when they slow down.
• Don’t Forget Food
Although you may not have a cooking source, it’s still very important to stay well-nourished and hydrated. Choose high-energy foods that don’t require cooking such as a granola bars or dried fried and nuts.
• Double-Check Your Alarms
Even if you regularly test your alarms and replace batteries twice a year, double-check your smoke and CO alarm batteries and be sure that the units are working. Replace batteries if needed.
• Prevent Pipe Breaks
If the temperature is extremely cold, water pipes can freeze and burst due to the pressure. To help prevent this from happening, open the cabinet doors if pipes are enclosed under a sink to help keep them warm. Also, close garage doors if you have exposed water pipes inside. Running the water at a trickle can also help prevent potential freezing. The best prevention is also preparation – be sure pipes are properly insulated before the winter season.
AFTER THE STORM
After the storm is over, it’s time to clear away the snow and prevent potential flooding and icing. Here are a few ways to help stay safe:
• Clear Paths
Clear a safe path from your home to the street and driveway. Be sure to clear off any nearby fire hydrants as well as your house number so that it is clearly visible.
• Clear Drains
Although you’re dealing with snow, flooding is also a huge safety concern as the snow melts. Be sure to clear any storm drains of debris and check your gutters as well.
• Shovel Safe
Dress in warm layers while shoveling and be sure not to get overheated. Hydrate regularly and take frequent breaks. It is easy to over do it, so pay attention to how your body is feeling.
• Stay Home
If possible, avoid driving until the roads have been fully cleared. This helps keep you safe and makes it easier for emergency personnel to get around.
• Look for UL
If using an electric-powered snow removal device, be sure to look for the UL Mark.